Applications for Jobless Benefits in U.S. Fell in Latest Week

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Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, reinforcing the picture of a healthy job market.

Jobless claims declined by 10,000 to 258,000 in the week ended Dec. 3, a report from the Labor Department showed Thursday. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 255,000. Continuing claims decreased to a three-week low.

A tighter labor market has put a premium on skilled and experienced workers, helping explain why companies are retaining existing employees. The data are also consistent with the latest payrolls report, which showed steady and strong hiring in November.

No states or U.S. territories estimated jobless claims last week, and there was nothing unusual in the figures, according to the Labor Department.

Claims have stayed below the 300,000 level for 92 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since 1970 and typically consistent with an improving job market.

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey for weekly jobless claims ranged from 250,000 to 275,000.

The applications figures around the year-end holidays typically experience big swings because of the difficulty in adjusting the raw data. For instance, unadjusted claims jumped 103,157 last week after a 38,020 drop in the period ended Nov. 26, which included the Thanksgiving holiday.

The seasonally adjusted four-week moving average rose to 252,500 last week from 251,500.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 79,000 to 2.01 million in the week ended Nov. 26. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits declined to 1.4 percent from 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

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